Anxiety dreams are intense, disturbing, and unpleasant night visions that either cause extreme dread and discomfort or leaves the dreamer in dismay and confusion. 

These dreams are full of childhood trauma, conflicts and confrontations with someone in real life. Usually, the emotional undertone is so strong that it leaves the dreamer in a state of shock and nervousness.

Anxiety Dreams – Meaning, Types, and Ways to Prevent Its Re-occurrences
Anxiety Dreams – Meaning, Types, and Ways to Prevent Its Re-occurrences

Anxiety Dreams – Meaning

Anxiety dreams are fearful and uneasy dream themes that cause a lot of dread, worry, and angst in the dreamer. These images are intense and high on emotions and thereby lead to a lot of mental agony in the dreamer.

Most people will wake up after seeing a disturbing and fearful dream theme. All these uneasy images carry a sense of oppression that the dreamer finds it hard to get away with even after waking up. 

Many of these anxiety dreams are either related to some disturbing real life circumstances that the dreamer is going through in his/her waking life or it could also hint at some past trauma trying to peep into the subconscious mind for a final bid adieu.

It may happen when the dreamer is actually experiencing some emotionally charged up situation in waking life. Anxiety dreams are manifestations of real life distress that the person is unable to resolve in reality and thus it’s making a way into the dream world.

Any dream theme that leaves the dreamer in a state of shock, dread, embarrassment, fear, and insecurity can be termed anxiety dreams. 

Study findings and interpretation of anxiety dreams

A close look into these dream themes will reveal suffering of some kind that the dreamer has already experienced in the past or in recent times in their daily lives. Dreams of this sort are scary and laden with a lot of fear and uneasiness.

If anxiety dreams are a recurring phenomenon for you, it is evident that your good night’s sleep will no longer remain good. Many of such anxious dream themes will cause premonition of something bad that can happen in future.

An anxiety dream is any dream that is distressing, surreal, and leads to disrupted sleep or no sleep at all. Research studies on anxiety dreams have revealed that people who are suffering from mood disorders, generalized anxiety disorders, panic disorders may see disturbing images of fearful situations in their dreams. 

Thus, these individuals will rate their dreams as charged-up and disturbing. This study also revealed that real life stress, anxiety, and depressive mood states can alter the mind state of the person, thereby forcing them to see what is not getting recognized in real life.

Sigmund Freud revealed long ago in his famous book ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’ that the anxious component that surfaces in dreams reveals hidden trauma, conflicts, and unresolved emotional issues of the dreamer’s waking life. 

According to him, anxiety dreams manifest fear and dread, unpleasantness and emotional toxicity that was repressed and never allowed to surface in the waking life situation of the dreamer’s life. Thus, the real life events that were non-acceptable in reality tried to peep inside the dream world.

Why Anxiety dreams happen?

Scientific evidences has proved that anxiety dreams are scary dream themes that unleash a lot about the past and present day happenings of the dreamer’s life. Now, it’s time to analyze why these dreams occur and is there anything we can do to stop its re-occurrences in the sleep state.

Anxiety dreams can be caused by some ongoing stress of waking life. If you are persistently worried about certain real-life issues, you may feel anxious before going to bed. 

The apprehension and worries may get into the dream state as well. A study conducted in 2003 has proved that adults with generalized anxiety disorder and constant worries in waking life are susceptible to bad dreams. 

Some of the general factors causing anxiety dreams are as follows:

  • Fear or stress of some real-life event
  • Traumatic events
  • Significant life changes such as job loss, death in the family, moving to a new city, etc.
  • Insomnia that is chronic
  • Substance abuse can cause bad dreams

Types of Dreams That Can Cause Anxiety and Create Havoc in Your Life

Do we have much control on what we see in dreams? No. Anxiety dreams can make you feel perplexed and fearful in no time. You may wake up in great fear about what you have just seen in the dream. 

Drowned underwater

This dream theme symbolizes a scary situation where there is a sense of helplessness in the dreamer. Water in dream also denotes overwhelming emotions that are negative and out of control. This anxiety dream signifies insecurity, a sense of fear about some misfortune of waking life. 

When you dream about drowning in deep waters with no help around, it symbolizes your perplexed state of mind. You are feeling uncontrolled about something in waking life, as if you are drowned in worries that have clouded your thoughts completely.

Being chased and attacked 

This dream theme induces a lot of fear because it shows you an uncontrolled situation in the dream state where someone or something is trying to cause serious harm to you. 

If your waking life relationships are full of turmoil, or your workplace connections are full of jealousy, you may carry the fear of being harmed by someone all the time in your waking life. 

Teeth falling out

Teeth falling out are a very common dream theme. Research findings have revealed the physiological and psychological correlates of this anxiety dream.

This symbolizes a sense of powerlessness on some event of waking life. Sometimes, you may get this anxiety dream because of low self-esteem. 


When you dream of an earthquake, you may wake up in a pool of sweat in the middle of the night. The dream has so much of a fear element in it that anxiety is inevitable. You may get panic attacks as well.

This theme symbolizes instability, powerlessness, and overwhelming emotions of waking life. 

Dreams about flooding and high tides

According to Carl Jung, water represents uncontrolled emotions. Thus any dream theme where you see lots of water trying to control your survival be sure that you are going through some emotional crisis in waking life. 

High tides or tidal waves represent your inner restlessness and pessimism. You are losing your confidence to sail through the trying times in your waking life. The dream is a symbolic explanation of your inner emotional state. 

Flooding also denotes that you’re trapped in a troublesome situation in real-life with no help to be seen around; signifying a helpless feeling.

Naked in public

This is no doubt scary and humiliating. This dream symbolizes lack of self-esteem, or your struggle to prove yourself worthy in the social space.

An anxiety dream of this kind represents embarrassment, shame, or guilt about some incident in your waking life that has actually left you in deep unease and awkwardness.

Fire in the house or around you

This carries a negative meaning in the dream world and causes a lot of mental discomfort and fear in the minds of the dreamer.

Fire in dreams is symbolic of impending danger and loss in waking life. With all the anxiety and fear, this dream symbolizes repressed anger about an uncontrolled situation in waking life. 

Sometimes, fire also means frustration, lack of power to attain what you have wished for in real life. This dream also means a burnout state where your adaptive mechanism has fallen off completely.

Lack of preparation for a test

If you see a dream where you are not able to answer any question after sitting for an examination, then this dream indicates fear of failure and loss of self-confidence in waking life. You are not prepared to embrace any future change that can happen in waking life. 

Research studies have confirmed that this dream also represents an inability to trust one’s abilities. The dreamer may feel less prepared because his or her confidence level has gone down to a great extent.

Dream about getting late for some important commitment

A dream about getting late for school or for work can indicate that you are feeling lesser in some way or the other in your waking life. This dream symbolizes your poor confidence level. You are always feeling a step behind others in the real world. 

Running late is a stressful dream because of the overwhelming negative emotions that these dreams carry outside to the real world. If you are losing your confidence about a work project, you may see this kind of a dream theme.

Falling dream

This is a common scenario that symbolizes a loss of control or grip on a significant situation in waking life. This type of anxiety dream may appear when the dreamer is actually trying to get hold of something important in real-life but is unable to do so. 

You are hanging on to something that is already losing and you may fall off any moment. Your present day real life situation is shaky and unpredictable and you are not feeling protected anyhow.

Forgetting something significant

When you dream about forgetting something important, it signifies the presence of too much stress in waking life. You’re in a state of emotional meltdown in real-life and thus your dream is showing your forgetful state of mind. 

This could be related to examination dreams where you seem to forget what you have learned. Another dream scenario could be you are on a stage and you forgot what you should be speaking about. 

Reckless driving

This symbolizes your sense of panic, lack of control, powerlessness, and emotional burden.

Sometimes this dream also represents a lack of direction in waking life. You are unsure of the road ahead and are feeling confused about your next course of action in real-life.

People laughing at you

If you are dreaming of laughing humiliation lately, it signifies your fear of being ridiculed in social circles.

In real-life you might be harboring some kind of fear that can cause humiliation and a sense of shame. This dream symbolizes social anxiety, shame, and guilt of the dreamer. 

Dreaming about examination results

This is a common anxiety dream for students to see their results coming out especially if the real results are on its way soon. This dream symbolizes the pressure of performance in real-life.

This is a symbolic representation of your goals and ambitions, confidence and success. If you dream about failing in the exam, it represents your poor self-image. 

Death of a loved one

This is just freaky and can leave you in despair and deep agony. When you see death in dream it symbolizes your deep love for the deceased soul. You are not over the loss yet and want to enjoy your lost connection for a few minutes in the dream state. 

Being cheated upon 

If you are anxious about your current relationship status and are doubtful about the authenticity of your partner in waking life, this dream is just a fearful representation of your real-life insecurity and fear about the relationship.

This may not represent real-life cheating but shows your innate fears and lack of protection in the bonding.

This dream signifies lack of trust between partners, a one-sided affair, and also tells you to remain cautious about subtle signs of real-life cheating.

End of the world in dreams

The dream theme symbolizes a clear cut connection with your restless emotional state in waking life. You are carrying an emotional baggage in real-life and the end of the world is a mere representation of hopelessness, sorrow, and anxiety. 

This signifies uncertainty, unhappiness, and confusion about where you are heading towards in your waking life. End of the world gives you a feeling of nothingness and despair.

It represents your sense of protection that ceases to exist all of a sudden leaving you in insecurity and uncertainty in waking life.

Dream of insects or bugs crawling upon you

This mysterious dream is quite scary and terrifying. It can leave you in dismay long after you are awake from your dream state.

This is symbolic of the emotional burden that you are not able to let go in your waking life. Bugs in dreams also mean a lot of real-life troubles that are bothering you one after the other. 

Losing your hair in dreams

A dream of this sort symbolizes lack of inner strength, as if you are losing something that is most precious to you. You are losing a grip over your confidence and worth.

If you dream about hair loss and that others are making fun of you, then this dream symbolizes social anxiety. You have fears of being judged and criticized in waking life. 

Trapped somewhere 

When you dream of a place from where you are unable to find an exit, it symbolizes your trapped emotions and insecurities. Your waking life is full of anxious thoughts of not being able to hold things tightly. You are losing control of the events that are important. 

Trapped dreams are sticky feelings of being caged in one place. You’re feeling heavy inside and a sense of insecurity and lack of protection pervades throughout your mental state.

Effect of Anxiety Dreams on Mental Health

Unpleasant dreams cause stress and anxiety and impact the mental health of the person. Some of the harmful effects of anxiety dreams are as follows:

  • Sense of constant fear and anxiety after waking life
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Tiredness and mental fatigue persists after waking up if you try to assign various meanings to your dreams
  • Loss of happiness
  • Bitter mood states
  • Worries about how the dream could affect your waking life
  • Visualizing worst-case scenarios that will never happen in reality 
  • Poor sleep quality

Ways to Stop and Prevent Anxiety Dreams

In most cases, the emotions attached with such scary dream scenarios are intense and disturbing. The dreamer is left with no choice but to suffer in and out of their dream state. 

The anxious dreams interfere with sleep quality only to find you in complete mayhem.

Emptying your mind before retiring off the day

If you are getting anxiety dreams quite often, it is important for you to empty your mind completely before going to bed.

In this way, you will neither think about the to-do lists of the next day nor will you try to relate past circumstances with the present moments. A complete switch-off is essential to prevent anxiousness from disturbing your night’s sleep.

Practice some good sleep habits as a ritual everyday

If you are really looking out for ways to fix anxiety dreams, it’s important to relax and meditate before sleep.

You need to switch off from your electronic gadgets, engage in a calming activity with your eyes closed. You can choose to put the lights of the room dim so that there are no external disturbances at the moment. 

Progressive muscle relaxation

Poor sleep can cause bad dreams and it is vital that you stretch your arms and legs before retiring to bed. This technique is used to relax the muscles of the body and helps to fall asleep faster.

Relaxing the body can eliminate stress and anxiety out of your body. The nerves appear cool and the muscles are relaxed and free moving.

Keep your worries away from the sleep

You can actually do this by journaling your worrisome thoughts of the day. This writing is a good practice to vent out feelings that were not processed throughout the day.

Write all your worries, unfulfilled wishes, regrets and remorse on a piece of paper before going to bed. 

Image rehearsal therapy (IRT)

Through this technique, the dreamer is told to think about a happy ending of the dream. For example, if you are having recurring dreams of driving an uncontrolled car, it’s obvious that you are visualizing an accident scene with wreckage and blood shed all around.

In IRT, you can alter the ending by visualizing a scene where your car bumped a big tree only. The magnitude of the disaster was small and manageable. 

This technique makes the dream scenario less distressing and the dreamer feels more in control of what they have seen in the dream.

Working with a clinical psychologist

You should also think of consulting a mental health professional and seek their valuable advice. Dealing with your real life anxiety can actually settle out your anxious dreams to a great extent. 

Parting words from ‘ThePleasantDream’

If you are frequently bogged down by anxiety dreams or stress dreams in your waking life, it’s time to peep inside your inner world. Your unconscious mind may be carrying the heavy burden of insecurity and fear deep inside.

There is no total cure for anxiety dreams however you can always use self-help coping skills to lessen the impact of these frightening dreams in your waking life.